After a dogged fight inside the main bowl of Akure sports complex, the ‘Flying Antelopes’, Rangers International F.C maintained their superiority over host, Sunshine Stars F.C as the match day 21, NPFL encounter ended goalless with the visitors missing an 89th minutes opportunity.
The host who looked more hungrier in the early part of the encounter with Anthony Omaka, Joshua Obaje, Wasiu Jimoh and Uche Ihuarulam pulling the strings upfront as pint-sized, Fuad Ekalojuoti sought to provide the weapons but Rangers’ back line absolved all that was thrown at them like a rock.
There were no clear-cut openings for either side inside the first twenty minutes of the game but on 23 minutes, Wasiu Jimoh was allowed enough space on the right but his shot failed to trouble Japhet Opubo who stood between the sticks for the Enugu side.
Six minutes later, the bulky forward was free again but this time, he did well to guide his shot from a tight angle past a sea of legs but missed target by a few inches.
Rangers did have their own opportunity but the towering presence of Jamiu Alimi and Bright Akpojuvwewho snuffed out whatever the trio of Chinonso Eziekwe, Ifeanyi George and Ibrahim Olawoyin brought to the table.
In the second stanza, Rangers gaffer, Salisu Yusuf, who had five new players in the starting block when compared to the team that earned a 1-0 win over Kano Pillars, midweek, did a switch that saw Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, Nnamdi Egbujuo and Ifeanyi Nweke thrown into the fray for some tiring legs, and it was a hit as the host were pushed back into their half for most part.
The dominance however failed to result in goal for the visitors even as the host continued to press forward in search for an opening which did not come.
With less than a minute to end of normal time, Rangers’ talisman, Olawoyin Ibrahim went a messy run that had been absent all game, went past three markers to set up Ugwuoke who had only the goalkeeper at his mercy but his shot went over the bar to send relief through the stands of the stadium and shock to the few traveling fans and bench of the visitors.
At the end of the feisty encounter, coach Yusuf said, “It was a good match that we wanted to win and could have won but for that last minute’ miss. Sunshine gave us a good fight but my players stood their ground. We shall continue to work on the team till we get the perfect mix to get the results we need to take us where we need to be.”
Rangers captain, Tope Olusesi, who did a great job in making Fuad’ work on the wing very difficult today, said, “We thank God for the result but we did well to have left with all three points. I thank our fans for their prayers and support. We shall continue to fight gamely till the end of the season.”
The result moves the Coal city side further up the twenty-team log as it occupy the 15th spot with twenty-four points from eighteen matches with three games in hand.
Rangers will midweek, be trading tackles with Nasarawa United F.C at the Lafia city stadium in a rescheduled fixture.
Sunshine Stars visit Warri Wolves on match day 22.
Sunshine XI | Suleiman; Akobundu, Olulayo, Akpojubweuvwo, Alimi; Fatokun, Omaka, Ekelojuoti, Obaje (Omo Jesu 30′); Jimoh (Silas 78′), Ihuarulam (M. Suleiman 46′)
Unused Subs | Ojo; Abe, Hilary, Adebayo
Caution | Fatokun 45+1′
RANGERS TEAM: Japhet Opubo, Tope Olusesi, Emmanuel Nwokeji (Ifeanyi Nweke -46th Min.), Tony Shimaga, Akpos Adubi, Anthony Franklin, Ibrahim Olawoyin, Kehinde Adedipe (Ugochukwu Ugwuoke -60th Min.), Chinonso Eziekwe, Ifeanyi George (Nnamdi Egbujuo – 75th Min.), Christian Madu.
SUBS NOT USED: Femi Thomas, Isiaka Oladuntoye, Uche John, Dauda Madaki.
REFEREE: Lamido Ahmed – Yobe.